Did you know that ‘life unworthy of life’ became the most infamous beliefs and sayings of selected Nazi doctors practising the then so-called third Reich. Few it seems opposed it or accepted its moral consequences.
The four doctors to be presented here for inspection would be no worse than any others of their profession, but all seemed to go along with the murders and misery as ordained in Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
The first medical practitioner born in 1904 was Dr. Karl Brandt. “He was tall and impressive. He seemed to fill up the whole room,” so remembers a colleague who had worked with him. Later in the turbulent years, as Hitler progressed to the pinnacle of his power, Karl Brandt’s fortunes also ascended when he was appointed as Hitler’s personal physician.
He was also very close to Albert Speer it seems and in those days Brandt and his wife would enjoy the good life becoming one of the Berchagaden followers of the Fuhrer, and indeed Hitler may have been the best man at his wedding. (But he would fall foul of Hitler’s wrath in the dying days of the war, when he wisely moved his family to safety. Hitler was furious it seems and Brandt was arrested for this act of betrayal).
In 1939 Brandt would be appointed “supremo” to manage the Reich’s eugenics prospectus. And indeed much of the Nazi agenda was in my opinion a front for the occult, i.e., the Thule teachings and the mystic culture that later drip-fed into the SS rites. Naturally, all of this was strongly encouraged by Himmler.
Even before and during the war Brandt seems to have acquiesced in so much of what was nauseous to some in the medical profession in Germany.
One wonders if he ever knew there would be a day of reckoning about his role in all of these atrocities. Or was he just naive, simply claiming that his staff had been involved in the killing of incurables and others insisting that he knew nothing about the extermination of the Jews and others in the east. A lame excuse the courts refused to accept or consider.
According to him these “mercy killings” on the weakest in society simply put the victims “out of their misery.” In other words, he was no longer just a simple doctor but a serving soldier who had been drafted in to service and was forced to obey orders rather like other combatants on the battlefield. But of course, Brandt wasn’t in the battlefield but practicing experiments on innocents without painkillers in the medical blocks in the death camps.
For Brandt, there were no dilemmas in serving his Reich and its sordid needs.
Then in 1946, he with 23 other Nazi doctors would stand trial in Nuremberg for their crimes against a civilian population. Brandt incidentally was now simply prisoner number 13 with no privileges sitting in the same place ironically as Goring had once been seated before he cleverly cheated the hangman’s rope.
The trial was popularly referred to as “the doctor’s trial” and interestingly among the accused men (who still wore their army uniforms with no medals of course) sat one woman doctor who took her place with the other defendants in the sombre oak walled courtroom, she was Dr. Herta Oberheuser.
But it would be in his willing role in the enforcement of euthanasia/genocide policy, ordained by Hitler that would allow serious charges of crimes against humanity levelled against him in the trial. Now just a prisoner, residing in cell 373, much of his past deeds would be revealed to the court and he must have realized that the evidence against him was damning.
The was no proof that he had ever visited Auschwitz but that’s not to claim that he didn’t know of its function or indeed had journeyed to the camp facilities to see for himself what was happening, then reporting back to Himmler.
Many of the serving doctors travelled widely in Germany and beyond often at a few days notice. But he certainly visited and liased with the staff at Natzwwiler K.C, then situated on French territory. More seriously, claimed the court, he hastened patients’ lives with lethal injections. Ironically soon after 1933 live vivisection on animals was banned under the Reich law. (Both Hitler and Goering supported this. Who knows perhaps they were animals lovers after all!) But the law now seemed to allow human experiments to be allowed and tolerated. Eugenics had arrived!
Brandt’s days were now numbered and he must have known it all along that the court would find him guilty and demand the supreme penalty of death.
Finally in 1948, after being found guilty of numerous war crimes, he was removed under escort to Landsburg fortress for execution. (Ironically, Hitler had composed much of Mien Kampf in the same stern stockade.)
Then after a failed appeal the former SS Brigadefuhrer, Prof. Dr. Karl Brandt was hung until dead, in a specially constructed gallows in the prison yard. (It seems the appointed hangman botched the execution like so many others before Brandt’s was carried out.)
Later the body would be buried in the prison compound. He was forty four years old.
Dr. Karl Brandt seems to have died unrepentant of the sufferings he caused to so many innocents. Perhaps he was nothing more than an ambitious doctor who treated a hypochondriac dictator. He certainly wasn’t “the descent doctor,” as someone remarked about him, but just a willing sympathiser groomed by the Nazis to implement their bidding and future designs.
Will history consider him just a weak idealist whose obedience to Hitler stifled his conscience, allowing him to forget that a doctors first duty is to the well being of his patients and never to subject them to pointless sufferings and excruciating deaths. Or was Karl Brandt just another doctor sadly out of his depth in the Nazi political quagmire that he and his profession had helped to create and establish in the Nazi image of death.
The second doctor for consideration is Theodore Morell born in 1886. Today he is remembered as Hitler’s controversial half Jewish doctor, or so some claim. (He would go on to serve Hitler for 9 years until he was dismissed in 1945).
Morell eagerly accepted the position after Karl Brandt who had served as Hitler’s doctor was offered the euthanasia portfolio and accepted it. Later the two medics becoming rivals for Hitler’s requests and favours.
Soon after the war both men had been arrested and placed in an internment camp (perhaps Buchenwald). There it seems they shared a room, and one can only guess what they talked and argued about. I doubt it was about the “good old days,” then serving their hero, Adolph Hitler. Now importantly both men were fighting for survival and all of that past glory must have seemed like another world to both of them.
In looking at a portrait of Morell in front of me his face rather reminds me of the old pictures of the man in the moon, and another likeness that come to mind is the grinning Cheshire cat. Yet privately he was teetotal and a non-smoker, but the doctor sadly did relish his food, as pictures will also verify.
He has unkindly been denounced as a quack, yet he did qualify as a doctor and was fully licensed to practice medicine. But by the end of the war was he just one of the numerous rotten doctors who fell from the Nazi tree. Now for them, a price had to be paid. Speer remembers him, “As a screwball obsessed with making money.” And he further claims that once on visiting Morell’s Berlin office, the painted sign on the consulting room door declared, “Dr. Theodore Morell. Skin and Venereal Diseases.” So remembered Hitler’s young ambitious architect but I’m not sure why Speer was calling on Morell’s medical advice in the first place.
Years before when Morell first examined Hitler, he was 49-years-old and had not practiced serious medicine for twenty years, rather he had been experimenting in alternative bodily procedures. What we would call today holistic alternatives.
Yet through his prepared concoctions and potions that he had fed to Hitler over the years, he may have perhaps prolonged the war, there by subjecting millions of innocent people to suffer unnecessarily until the wars end. And feed the monster he did from 1936 onwards with a cocktail of amphetamines belladonna and maybe even pinches of morphine.
One recent author even claims he was being given 82 different medications or 28 assorted drugs each day as well as sampling a primitive form of Viagra added to the Morell mixtures. (I have to ask tongue-in-cheek does a dictator have time for romance when he is conquering the world.) Interestingly the drug Orchikrin was also used in this menu. It does contain extracts from bulls testis, seminal, prostrate vesicles, Bulgarian excreta, and allegedly this disgusting concoction was even tested on pope Pius XII in his final years.
Unfortunately, much of this treatment can offer the patient dangerous highs and lows. So hypothetically these mood swings affecting Hitler’s temperament may have accelerated certain important military decisions he gambled on during the campaign in the eastern front, and ultimately lost.
On a lighter note Goring sarcastically referred to Morell as, “the Herr Reich syringe master,” and Goering was certainly qualified to know about drugs that he had often relished and sampled extensively before and during the war. Amazingly he quickly kicked the habit in Nuremberg prison during his trial, later swallowing a concealed cyanide capsule.
Eva Braun once claimed that Morell had the habits of an animal, refusing ever to return to his clinic, then located in the Kurfurstendamm area in Berlin. She did later during the war enjoy the delights of the Bavarian snow, filming much of it with the doctor’s wife, Hanni in attendance with her, and it seems the two women got along very well but I doubt they ever talked about Dr. Morell or his medical condition.
I found it interesting that the young Morell had for a time in his youth been employed as a ships doctor and would reminisce about his happy times in Africa. I have to speculate that he perhaps dabbled in witch doctor medicinal indigenous plants and assorted herbs later storing them to be brought back to Germany to be used on future guinea pigs. Who knows, maybe even on Hitler himself? He even treated the famous German film director, Leni Riefenstahl with an acupuncture treatment. Not sure if it worked for her or not but she must have trusted him in this novelty treatment of that time. (Leni will be the next subject in this series).
And perhaps all along he was slowly poising Hitler with his dangerous beverages, inadvertently of course!
Albert Speer who spent a great deal of quality time with Hitler recalled that before 1937, “Hitler was relaxed, friendly and accessible. After that, he became more withdrawn.” Was this maybe due to Morell’s mysterious mixtures frequently being pumped into Hitler’s blood stream?
Speer seems to conveniently point an accusing finger in this doctor’s direction. But remember, Karl Brandt and Speer were good friends.
Again one of the most popular amphetamines used was “Pervitin” or as we would know it to today as “speed.”
If Hitler’s doctor was injecting him with this intravenously then much of his psychotic moods can be explained. (A dangerous drug then being used on a dangerous man.)
By 1945 Hitler had no further use for Morell’s medical tricks. He was then later unkindly dismissed form the bunker in Berlin. This period of his life was now over. For some reason during his escape from the burning city, he acquired a German army footlocker, containing it seems, medical records and even electrocardiograms of Hitler and Mussolini. Maybe he gambled these items of his ex-patient could be used as a lucky bargaining chip with his captors.
Soon after captured by French troops (fortunate for him they weren’t Russians) and accompanied by an American interpreter, the locker and its secrets mysteriously vanished never to be seen again. What a treasure trove that must have been to whoever stole it, or was it perhaps destroyed later in the rubble of Germany, who knows.
During his integrations by the Americans, he was described by one them as having the manners of a pig. Poor Theo Morrell, now nobody seems to have loved him. Well, maybe his long suffering wife Hanni. But for him and others, the Nazi show was over, and this unconventional doctor was just one of the supporting actors who were now scrambling to just try and survive in a post Nazi Europe.
But he would never fully recover from this ordeal and died in 1948.
In conclusion, he come across as a lovable buffoon but it must never be forgotten that he was a paid-up member of the Nazi party and must have been privy to the frequent gossip of the concentration camps then circulating in Germany, certainly amongst the Nazi hierarchy.
I certainly suspect he was aware of the wicked termination of thousands of sick handicapped and retared children, and for that, he should have been punished. But maybe in his heart, he hoped it would all just go away and he could organise another position on the next ship to Africa.
In approaching doctor Herta Oberheuser, I remain rather mystified about this particular woman and her reasons of why she did what she was charged with in the courts in 1945, that resulted in her cruelty to so many.
Indeed it seems she could glide from inflicting nauseous medical measures on innocent children in Ravensbruck, to natural deeds of kindness to her many patients in later years in Germany. And how is it I wonder that a person can almost change their skin rather like a chameleon does. To morph from an evil doctor becoming later a beloved doctor to her patients.
As I write this, I have on my desk two black and white photographs of her.
The first is of a young woman, perhaps just qualifying as a doctor, then in a man’s world with all the prejudices that brings. The other is of her as the only woman prisoner incarcerated with her medical colleagues 1946. I suppose a mug shot taken by the Americans. Soon she will be tried for medical war crimes in Nuremberg. And for me, she has been the most difficult of this series of doctors to research and understand her motives. Somehow she doesn’t seem to fit the bill as a cruel doctor and so proud of what she inflicted on others.
The two pictures reveal so much about her to me yet so little at the same time. To me, she remains a mystery in all of this. For Karl Brandt, it was perhaps ambition and recognition that always needed feeding onto his ego. With Morell on the other hand I suspect it was about financial gain and profiteering greed, two dangerous attributes in any man, especially in a doctor.
Dr Herta, as she would be fondly remembered years later after her discharge from prison, and did she perhaps encourage this familiarity from her patients in her relationship with them? After all everyone wants to trust their doctor, don’t they.
In fact, she would be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Both serious accusations, even carrying the death sentence if proved by prosecutors. And if her pictures revel little about her inner soul, her appearance in the court is just as ambiguous. Now witnessed in the old newsreels on YouTube she quietly sits at the end of the back row almost placed under the court clock.
So very demure she appears almost like an appointed court stenographer there to take notes rather than one of the hated accused as a relic from the fallen Reich. Again in giving her evidence, her voice is meek almost silent as if she shouldn’t be here. So was she ever afraid of the coming consequences or does she just lack confidence before her accusers. I don’t know. Yet this was a qualified doctor who must have signed the Hippocratic oath.
What had all that been for now I wonder?
Whilst serving in Ravensbruck concentration camp, primarily for women, SS Dr. H. Oberheuser performed some of the most heinous acts of cruelty upon children in that infamous place.
She had enrolled in the Nazi party during her student days and seems to willingly have taken on board much of the eugenics programme as well as the pomp of the party. But it is her treatment of injecting oil and evipan into childrens veins, as well as having body parts and organs removed to be sent to Berlin for examination. And all in the name of science and the party!
This is what happens when men offer themselves up against God and mock and decry His creatures ignoring His saving grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. All of these doctors so far had been raised in the Christian tradition yet all followed the tune and drum beat of false prophets.
Dr. Herta Oberheuser was handed down a 20-year sentence at the trials end. She was very fortunate in not being given the death sentence. Maybe it was because she was a woman, some argued. I suspect she played the femine card.
In 1952 she was released and continued in her medical practice. However five years later, she was recognized by a former inmate from the camp and as a result of this publicity, she was disbarred from practicing medicine again.
(She may have privately treated patients but this cannot be confirmed).
An enterprising reporter was able to trace her during her court case. She portrayed a woman “with bitter cold and searching eyes.” She somehow seemed indifferent to his questions even inviting him into her small cold basic house perhaps for a coffee. She seemed unrepentant and unconcerned about the charges brought against her reputation. She seems to have disappeared after this, later dying in Linz am Rehin in 1978. She was 67-years-old.
From the pictures before me, I see a defiant woman looking back at me. Always dedicated in applying her Nazi beliefs to children or adults, and if these were to be inflicted against innocent children, so be it, if eventually saving the lives of “brave German soldiers” was the triumphant outcome for the Reich.
I can see very little trace of compassion in her face but rather a woman who had fought hard for all she has archived academically (she had a PHD in dermatology). Of her private life, we know nothing. So much of her remains a mystery but isn’t that probably the way Dr. Herta would have wanted it.
I’m not sure I would have warmed in her presence if indeed she would have invited me in for a coffee, but again I cannot ignore the image she presents in these pictures, a truly committed and dangerous woman always dedicated to her cause, however false it may be.
The soothing fingers of Dr. Felix Kirsten may have brought some instant relief to Himmler’s sensitive stomach and intestinal spasms it seems. This gift caused him to be known as “the devil’s doctor.” Yet however, through his brave efforts, thousands of Jews and others were not spared the horrors of the death camps.
In fact, Himmler would coyly describe Kirsten as “my magic Buddha.” Throughout Kirsten’s working years with his infamous patient, much of it remains a mystery to me and I have to wonder did he ever knowingly accompany his master to any of the death camps as part of his enforced duties. Himmler would have wanted him on call at all times.
Felix Kirsten was born in Estonia in 1889 but it wasn’t until the 1920s that he began to take an interest in physical therapy, soon coming under the influence of a Tibetan trained Chinese masseur, who it seems cast horoscopes and supported reincarnation. Very dangerous warns the Holy Bible.
Dr. Felix Kirsten was introduced to Himmler in 1939 but it wasn’t until 1941, when he was summed to Gestapo headquarters in Berlin that the two men officially met and very soon Himmler considered Kirsten his property.
It seems he never accepted a fee for his services to Himmler. Amusingly another Kirsten patient at the time was foreign minister Ribbentrop who was shocked to discover during a massage that Kirsten wasn’t even a Nazi party member.
Both Himmler and Ribbentrop sought information from Kirsten about each others health and if nothing else during the war he was picking up the gossip from the court of king Adolph, then later passing it on to allied military intelligence the OSS.
Kirstin’s many privileges (now he was the Reichfuehrers personal masseuse) was to be offered a personal po box, number 335566 of his own. It was apparently supposed to be immune to Gestapo tampering. Naturally, this brought anger and distrust from two other Nazi nasties, Heydrich and Muller because of Kirstin’s favoured treatment from the “boss.”
Because of his close proximity to Himmler Kirstin had had the unpleasant occasion in the past to be intimidated and threatened several times by the “beast of Prague.” None of this happened with Heydrich later dying from wounds in Prague in 1942. (Apparently, Morell suggested a new strain of antibiotics to treat the wounded Heydrich, but that offer was never taken up thankfully).
On a personal level, I do believe that had Heydrich lived he would have become Hitler’s anointed successor, is even more ruthless than Adolph Hitler had demanded of others. A frightening scenario that never happened. God it seems had other more important intentions especially for the coming state of Israel, and the thousand-year Reich had a mere three years left to perform or perish.
Felix Kersten was now able to act as an important intermediary between Himmler and a representative of the World Jewish Council in 1944. This resulted in 60,000 people being thankfully saved from death in the camps.
Later many were transported to lasting freedom in white buses.
After the war, Kirsten’s reputation had been badly battered with many quickly insisting he had willingly co-operated with the Nazis and maybe some of these false claims resulted in him never receiving the Nobel Peace Prize if indeed he had been nominated.
It was however left to his published memoirs penned after the war, in trying to establish his side of the Kirsten/Himmler relationship, that he had to endure. I believe it became just that, an uneasy relationship with each locked into each other’s needs.
Felix Kirsten died on April 16th after being admitted to a hospital near Dusseldorf. He was 62-years-old.
He had it seems been on his way to accept the “Legion of Honour” from President Charles de Gaulle in Paris. And obviously, de Gaulle (who it seems was always a good judge of a man’s character) had no doubts about where Kirsten’s loyalties lay in those dying days of the war.
A television documentary screened in 2009, concerning Kirsten claimed that “he never won recognition in Israel” for what he achieved for the desperate Jews in their sufferings and I do wonder why after all Kirsten did was never proclaimed with gratitude by the Israeli Government?
I can only speculate that they knew something more serious about Felix Kersten and his relationship with the Nazis and especially Himmler.
Maybe one day the whole truth might be revealed about Hitler’s “magic Buddha.” He might not have been Oscar Schindler but he was the next best thing. But until then we can only speculate about the doctor who hailed from Finland and would be forever associated with Himmler’s notorious reputation.
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
On a personal note, I was unable to discover any new information about Dr. Herta Oberheuser and I would appreciate it if anyone has any further knowledge about her or her family not listed on the web.
All info would be treated as confidential unless otherwise requested. Thank you.
The Nazi Doctors, R. Jay Lifton (excellent book but surprisingly nothing about Dr Herta Oberheuser)
Doctors from Hell, Vivien Spitz
Karl Brandt, Ulf Schmidt
Himmler, Peter Padfield
The Devil’s Doctor, John H. Waller
The medical casebook of Adolph Hitler, Leonard and Renate Heston.
29th December 2011
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